Applied Linguistics

Grammar translation method pros and cons/Typical tasks/principle

Throughout the history of mankind, a great many different educational methods have been developed. At first, all methods of teaching foreign languages ​​were borrowed from programs designed to teach the so-called “dead languages” – Latin and Greek, within which almost the entire educational process was reduced to reading and translation. In this article we will discuss the Grammar translation method pros and cons.

It was this method that was laid down by the enlighteners at the end of the 18th century under the name “Grammar-translational method” (grammar-translation method, in the West known as the Prussian method). It became widespread in the 18th-19th centuries. and retained its leading role until the outbreak of the First World War, when it gave way to direct and natural methods.

Representatives of this method are W. Humboldt, D. Hamilton, G. Ollendorf, J. Jacotto, C. Toussaint, etc. The popularity of the method was explained, on the one hand, by its compliance with the educational goals that were set for students of foreign languages, and on the other – traditions inherited from the teaching method of the Latin language during the Renaissance.

The goal of studying a foreign language for a long period of time was considered to be the general education of students, the development of logical thinking as a result of translating texts and performing grammatical exercises.

This goal of the study was well characterized by W. Humboldt: ” The goal of teaching a language is to communicate knowledge about its general structure” (1809). The formation of thinking based on the study of grammar came from the Latin language when the study of its grammar was considered the best means of developing logical thinking. This goal of learning foreign languages ​​is well illustrated by the exercise in transforming a passive structure into an active one, or vice versa, which has survived to this day. If today it is sometimes used to master passive constructions, then the representatives of the grammatical-translation method used it in order to show that in an active construction the logical and grammatical subjects coincide, but in a passive one, they do not coincide.

The basic principles of GMT( Grammar translation method)

The course was based on the grammatical system, which determined the selection of material, including the selection of vocabulary, the construction of the course as a whole. This position was justified by the fact that the study of grammar provides a solution to a general educational problem – the development of thinking.

The main material on which the teaching was based were the texts (the unit of teaching is the sentence.) For the written speech reflected, in the opinion of the teachers of the time, the original language. It seems that this is inspired by the traditions of studying the Latin language.

The vocabulary was considered only as illustrative material for the study of grammar. Since it was believed that words of different languages ​​differ from each other only in a sound and graphic way, and not in meaning, compatibility, etc., it was recommended to memorize them out of context as isolated units.

Analysis and synthesis were recognized as the leading processes of logical thinking. In this regard, in the teaching process, much attention was paid to analyzing the text from the point of view of grammar, memorizing the rules, and building on this basis foreign language sentences. Sometimes this method was called analytical-synthetic.

The main means of semantization of linguistic material was a translation (from foreign to native and from native to foreign)

The basis of teaching, as I have already noted, was composed of texts selected so as to illustrate the grammatical material to be studied. The authors of one of the oldest textbooks of the German language P. Glazer and E. Petzold stated: ” The texts for reading are selected so that they reflect the grammatical material to be studied in the best possible way .” Text analysis and translation took a significant place in the learning process. Words and especially grammatical rules were learned by heart. To check the assimilation of grammar, translations from the native language were offered, and the sentences were not related in meaning. In the textbook of the same authors, for example, the following text for translation is given:

“Lions, bears, and elephants are strong. Do you know my neighbor Count N.? Many starlings and finches nest in the trees of our garden. Merchants live in cities, and farmers live in villages. “

In a number of cases, after the sentence for translation, German words were given, which needed to be used in the correct form. All attention was paid to the ability to construct a foreign language sentence. The authors themselves understood that the use of rarely used words does not interfere with their use as illustrative material. It is only important to form them grammatically correctly. In addition, exercises in declination and conjugation were used.

Some Methodists, such as G. Ollendorf, believed that the content side of translations should be ridiculous and repulsive to students so that they focus on the grammatical side of sentences. So, E. Bik cites the texts of the translation from Russian, which was given in the second grade of one of the gymnasiums:

“This bear has a nephew and a niece. These camels wrote their lesson in the Russian language”.

The main control was the level of proficiency in grammatical material and translation of the text, and in some cases – the knowledge of isolated words. Of course, with such a “method” it was impossible to provide even basic language proficiency. In the second half of the 19th century, in accordance with the requirements of life, and first of all, oral communication, dialogues for memorization were added to textbooks of this methodological direction, as “conversations” were then called. However, all these innovations could not provide even basic knowledge of a foreign language. Therefore, this method finally disappears at the beginning of the 20th century. Despite all the shortcomings, this method still left something in the technique. This includes the use of translation and context as a way of semantization, various types of language exercises, and other paraphrase exercises in which the tense of the verb changes or the passive form changes to active.

 Pros and cons 


  • An unnatural method, because We begin to learn our native language first by listening to it, then we try to speak, read, and then write.
  • too much emphasis on translation. language acquisition is only due to translation skills, while oral skills are not formed. Those. the training did not provide practical use of the language in various communication situations
  • teaching a language was reduced to studying its grammatical structure,
  • passive forms of work prevailed,
  • gives a false idea of ​​what a language is and how languages ​​are related. A language is represented as a collection of words that have equivalents in the native language
  • bad for motivation, boring
  • this method is very good for people with highly developed logical thinking, for whom it is natural to perceive language precisely as a set of grammatical formulas.
  • little or no attention was paid to pronunciation
  • a literal translation is impossible and this is the difficulty
  • words are learned mostly in isolation, in a list


  • students got acquainted with works in the original language,
  • grammar was studied in context,
  • the native language served as a means of semantization, since teaching is in the native language, you can understand absolutely exactly whether the student has learned the rule or not
  • They explained grammar most often in their native language, scolded for mistakes, and tried to correct them all to the last. If the student could not correct his mistake himself, the teacher did it for him. [one]
  • analysis, elements of comparison, and comparison were used.
  • you can easily learn the phraseology because direct meaning is given, translation
  • good knowledge of the language system
  • it allows you to learn grammar at a fairly high level.

Typical tasks of the grammar-translation method

  • translation from the target language into the native
  • questions for understanding
  • find antonyms/synonyms
  • correspondence between the words of the native and the target language
  • deductive application of the rule, first studying it, then applying
  • fill in the blanks
  • memorizing words, grammar rules
  • make a sentence from words
  • composition

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